One YA Reader’s Desperate Plea

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I have a bone to pick with Young Adult authors. This has been burning a hole in my brain for quite some time, so I apologize in advance if I get a little persnickety. Here it goes …

WHY DO YOU FEEL THE NEED TO CHANGE THE POINT OF VIEW IN THE LAST BOOK OF A SERIES??????

Shouty capitals may seem rude and  uncalled for, but I’m down to my last nerve on this irritating literary trend. For the record, I’m not just asking this question as a reader, but also as a writer of YA Fantasy. Personally, I would never pull this trick on my readers as most of the time it isn’t necessary.

I should point out that the device of changing the point of view has always bothered me no matter the genre, but I’ve reached a new of level aggravation due to its use in several Young Adult series.  I don’t mind small instances of shifting points of view in a prologue  or epilogue, but my brain explodes when the concluding book in a series breaks a previously established point of view.  Why write an entire series from one point of view and then suddenly switch it up at the end? It makes no sense!

I’m a long time reader of multiple book series, mainly in the paranormal and fantasy divisions. Even though I’m an adult, I’m still a teenager at heart and I love YA books. The authors of these books deserve huge snaps for vivid and creative storytelling, but I’m finding myself more and more leery of picking up a new series because I fear what will happen with the last book of the series.  From some untold reason, this is when authors decide to rob me of my favorite characters!

My frustration apexed when my phobia of changing points of view kicked into gear twice over the last month. First, with Veronica Roth’s Divergent series and second with Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl’s Beautiful Creatures series. Before I go on my rant, I do want to point out that these are very talented writers, I just happened to disagree with their tactics.

There are a number of reasons why Roth’s Divergent series is on my poop list, but my heart sank when I read the inside flap and found out Allegiant was written with a dual point of view. I decided to stick it out because I loved the first two books, but the sudden change in format really irked me for two reasons:

1. I loved the main character and didn’t like being pulled from her head.

2. A little critical thought on why Roth chose a dual point of view format gave away a major plot point. Before I was done reading the first chapter, I knew who was going to die. Cue my broken heart.

When I picked up the last book in my most recent favorite series, Beautiful Creatures, I was devastated to find it was divided into a dual perspective. What? Are you kidding me? I spend three books entrenched in the charming Ethan Wate’s head and you’re going to make me leave him? Not cool. Lena Duchannes might be one awesome chick, but she is more intriguing through Ethan’s eyes.

Even my favorite series of all time contains the dreaded change in point of view. Imagine my horror when I opened Twilight: Breaking Dawn and realized I was stuck in Jacob’s head instead of Bella’s. It was torture and I’m still mad I had to spend so much time with a character I detested. Stephenie Meyer, I love you, but why spend three books developing Bella’s point of view only to rip it away from your readers?

There are many more guilty series, but it all comes down to the same thing: Why change a good thing? When a series progresses with each book written in one point of view, it’s only logical to retain the same point of view through the last book. After two or three books with one character, readers stick around because of love for the character and a relationship of trust with that character’s perspective. When the last book shifts into someone else’s head it fractures the reader/character dynamic.

While fiction writing is all about trying new things and shaking up reality, there is something to be said for maintaining a sense of order within a series. Let me walk through the story by the side of a character I’ve come to know and love. Please don’t force me to wonder what she’s thinking as her story comes to a close. Readers deserve to complete the journey in the same way it began. Anything less feels like betrayal.

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c.b.w. 2014

Give That Novel A Soundtrack!

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As a writer who relies on music to kickstart my muse, I am rather fascinated by a trend in Young Adult fiction whereby authors share a playlist for their novel.  This is absolutely brilliant as the audience for YA fiction is addicted to earbuds and personal music players.

I count myself among this pool of earbud addicts, mainly because when I read a book it plays like a movie inside my head. When I was younger, I would imagine music or pick songs to listen to while I read a book, all in an attempt to further immerse myself into a character’s mind or within the setting of a story.

Naturally, I relied on the same practice of turning to music when I began writing. Just like the books I read as a kid, both of my novels play like movies in my head. And yes, there is specifically chosen music for certain scenes. This process is nothing new in the writing world, but it is interesting to see writers making their playlists public.

The first time I came across an official novel soundtrack was when I read Twilight. Stephenie Meyer didn’t necessarily list the songs in the book itself, but she thanked specific bands in her acknowledgments and often spoke of specific songs that inspired scenes between Edward and Bella, (particularly the band Muse). Later, when The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide was published, Meyer released her playlists for every book in the series. Both the reader and writer in me devoured the music that pumped life into Twilight.

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A small portion of Stephenie Meyer’s playlist for Twilight.

For each song listed, Meyer went as far as quoting specific scenes from her novels. For those of us who have read Twilight more than once, this playlist gives us yet another reason to pick it up again.

More recently, I read Divergent by Veronica Roth. In the back of the book, she provides a playlist of songs and connects them to details in the story. After listening to a few of the songs, I gained a much deeper sense of the atmosphere and mood. Even though the writing was fantastic, an official playlist added a new dimension and gave me another way to enjoy the book.

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A peek at Veronica Roth’s playlist.

Some YA writers publish their playlists via the internet. For example, Becca Fitzpatrick created public playlists for all four books in her Hush, Hush series. She linked them through Spotify and will soon expand to iTunes. Her website even encourages readers to listen to fan-created playlists as they read.

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Click to visit Becca Fitzpatrick’s website.

Fitzpatrick’s strategy not only enhances the novel, but it builds a community among fans. More importantly she creates a strong connection between author and reader.

On the flip side, it can be argued that good writing shouldn’t need any “bells and whistles” to connect with readers. To this I say, the YA market is all about knowing your audience. This is a generation who can carry music with them wherever they go and they do. They listen to it at home, while walking to class, out in public, on the bus, etc. In a sense, the music gives them a world of their own.

For the YA reader, adding music to a book makes complete and total sense. A novel soundtrack gives them the ability to connect and relate to the characters and story on a personal level. Not only can they fully immerse themselves into the book, but it becomes part of their world. The music is what ties real life and fiction together.

From a fangirl perspective, having an official playlist for beloved characters allows the magic of the story to play over and over again. When it’s not possible to sit down with the book, a reader can revisit the characters and story whenever and wherever she pleases. It falls along the same lines as Twilight t-shirts or Hunger Games posters in that the young adult audience thrives on connections wherever they can find them. When writing a series, creating this kind of fanaticism is pure gold.

YA writers have a massive opportunity to create intense fervor for their books by offering another level of emotional investment. As I put the finishing touches on my YA novel, I’m leaving a little room on the last few pages to create a playlist that will give my readers the ultimate experience.

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c.b.w. 2013